How to Train Your Crews Properly

There are a lot of variables that go into running a successful business, but in all my years of coaching and consulting with the owners of landscaping companies I have never seen a single one get ahead without placing a premium on training their crews.

And yet many of us still think of training as an expense rather than an investment, or as something we keep meaning to do a better job of but never quite find the time to execute properly.

Not investing in training leads to substandard work, accidents, dissatisfied clients, and ultimately a lousy bottom line. Here are some steps you can take to change that:

Plan Your Training
Set aside a regular time for training every week, and then stick to it. Make it a fundamental part of your company culture. At Grunder Landscaping, our team leaders meet for one hour every Tuesday morning for a (paid) training session. Attendance is mandatory. If you’re not committed to continual improvement, you’re at the wrong company.

After the session, they are expected to train their crews on the topic. For our team leaders, this helps reinforce what they just learned, it keeps our training groups efficient, small, and hands-on, and it fosters teamwork.

Know Where Your Deficiencies Are
Track where you’ve had issues and lost money, and keep informed of horticultural issues in your area. Did you have a safety near-miss? Do your crews need more training on a new piece of equipment in order to operate it correctly? Or is there a technique for which they need a refresher demonstration? Work with your leadership team to agree on your top training priorities and then systematically address them one by one, week by week.

Teach, Don’t Present
The best trainers are clear, enthusiastic, and patient in their approach. They don’t lecture; instead they engage with their followers. They listen to gauge the level of understanding and determine what they need to spend more time on. Humor never hurts, either. Above all, foster an atmosphere in which no one feels too intimidated to ask questions about subjects they don’t know.

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce
Repetition is key to mastery. Follow up with your team in the days after a training session to see if they have any new questions. Start this week’s session with a review of last week’s topic. Make certain your team leaders are working to positively reinforce what they’ve taught in the field. Most of us learn best by doing, over and over again.

If you don’t have a structured training program in place at your company, now is the time to start. And if you want to see for yourself how we do it at Grunder Landscaping, join us at one of our Fall Field Trips this September and October.